It would be a gross exaggeration to assume that the German public is all that concerned about relations with Russia. This is far from the case. The country's media is now focused on issues, including economic ones, related to the coronavirus pandemic second wave. But overlapped with the pandemic effect, the EU's anti-Russian sanctions hit the economy of East Germany the hardest and foremost. And this causes both economic and political problems. It is no accident that the Prime Ministers of all the five federal lands of the region, as well as the incumbent mayor of Berlin, signed a document opposing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline building halt.
This happened on the cusp of the hysteria amid the German media and the local political elite, including, by the way, all the candidates for the future Chairman of the CDU and, consequently, the German Chancellor, who demanded to punish Russia for the mythical attempt to poison "patient Navalny" who is so dear to the Western democracies. However, after the new anti-Russian sanctions adopted by the EU proved targeted without affecting Nord Stream 2, "a sigh of relief swept through the German economy," the deutschlandfunk.de portal stated the other day. Note that your present correspondent mentions the entire German economy, not just its eastern part, even though the article is titled "Sanctions and their consequences for East Germany".
In particular, according to Axel Vogt, the Mayor of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern coastal town of Lubmin, where the underwater gas pipeline from Russia comes to the surface, his community gets up to 1.5 million euros per year thanks to the industrial tax levied on the performance of the Nord Stream 1incoming gas station alone. A similar Lubmin station for Nord Stream 2 was ready for service as early as by the end of last year. The demand for natural gas has not yet reached Germany, and the small Lubmin community can only dream of increasing its income. The pipeline installation was mainly delayed due to the US threats of sanctions against all the European construction participants by closing American markets for them. The pretext is focus on Europe's "independence", with the allegedly looming threat of becoming energy dependent on Russia. At the same time, everyone here understands that the US is simply lobbying for its supply of liquefied gas.
As you know, it is threats from overseas that have already forced a Swiss company to recall both of its specialized vessels that were engaged in pipe-laying across the Baltic sea bottom. The port of Sassnitz-Mukran on the island of Rügen currently hosts the 15 thousand pipes left (out of a total of 200 thousand) to be laid by the Russian ship Akademik Chersky. Then there was a letter from three US senators who linked the engagement of German companies and the port of Sassnitz-Mukran in the logistics support for the gas pipeline running from Russia with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, the deutschlandfunk.de portal reminds.
In this regard, Sassnitz Mayor Frank Kracht admits to be taking these threats seriously, because those were backed by a clear majority in the US Congress, not just one party. After all, it does not matter who wins the US presidential election in November – Trump or Biden, but the decision to work here in Mukran will be extremely challenging to companies that have business in the US, the mayor said. Manuela Schwesig, the Prime Minister of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where Rügen is located, has a different attitude, renouncing any political pressure on the Nord Stream 2 project. In her considered opinion, the Navalny incident should be investigated but not used to halt the Nord Stream 2 construction.
Speaking to the personnel of the port of Mukran in Sassnitz, Manuela Schwesig pointed out that the construction reached its final stage, pointing to Germany's need of energy supplies, with its government not entitled to let American politicians and institutions wreck jobs in Germany. Although the US has so far specifically threatened the port of Sassnitz-Mukran, Lubmin Mayor Axel Vogt fears that once Nord Stream 2 is complete and commissioned, America will have Lubmin in the crosshairs either.
By the way, the East German state of Saxony, with its capital in Dresden, suffered the most from the European Union's anti-Russian sanctions imposed after the Crimea referendum and the peninsula's return to Russia. Its trade turnover with the Russian Federation has collapsed by 70%, or nearly three quarters. And in general, the sanctions hit the east of Germany a lot harder than its western part.
German business is seriously worried that sanctions ruin its partnerships in Russia and replace them by Chinese firms, for instance. However, in some cases, the Germans manage to find new niches in the Russian Federation owing to high-quality products. For example, the well-known Bals electric company has started supplying electromobile charging points. Entrepreneur Thomas Brűning, who also chairs the Foreign Trade Commission with the Cottbus city Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was among those to initiate the creation of the so-called Russian Desk after the local firms displayed great interest in developing business in Russia. "Politics and economy should be kept distinct. We feel the interest of the Russian market in high-tech products, accompanied by a really good service, as compared to their competitors from China," the deutschlandfunk.de portal quotes Thomas Brűning as saying.